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Novel markers of animal emotion

Study an animal science honours project that investigates the question, 'can differential expression of microRNA’s distinguish valence of emotional state'?

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have recently been proposed as novel biomarkers for animal welfare. MiRNA’s are small non-coding molecules that perform post-transcriptional regulation and control many developmental and cellular processes.

Studies in humans and animals have demonstrated different expression patterns of miRNAs as a result of both acute and chronic stress. Furthermore, whilst they are particularly prevalent in brain sites, they can be detected in components of the blood.

We propose a novel hypothesis that miRNA assessment may differentiate valence, or direction of emotion i.e. positive or negative state.

This is a preliminary study to determine expression patterns of microRNAs in the blood and amygdala, from banked rodent tissue samples.

The project is lab-based. Techniques employed will include RNA extraction, and miRNA analysis by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), and Affymetrix gene microarray technology.

Alexandra Whittaker


Dr Alexandra Whittaker

Research area: Behavioural neuroscience

Recommended honours enrolment: Honours in Animal Science or Honours in Ecology and Environmental Science

Tagged in Honours projects - Animal science, Honours in Animal Science subtheme - Animal and veterinary bioscience, Honours projects - Alexandra Whittaker, Honours in Animal Science subtheme - Animal behaviour

Competition: Young Scientist of the Year

How do we feed the world’s growing population? How do we save our wildlife from extinction? Got an idea that will build a brighter, greener world?

Australian high school students are invited to submit a short video about one of Australia’s big science challenges.

Video competition